Five thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys, who are 1-1 after an NFC East road win at Washington:
Jerry on Dak
It’s interesting listening to owner Jerry Jones seemingly justify Dak Prescott’s success by saying it’s partially based on teams loading up to stop the run. Jones loves Prescott as his quarterback of the future, but this is Jones’ way of assuring everyone that this remains Tony Romo’s job and the Cowboys are better with the veteran at the helm. Dak Mania has many people wondering aloud about whether Prescott should keep the job when Romo is healthy. Jones wants that stuff shut down right now and deservedly so. This remains Romo’s team and he is still best man to run the offense when healthy without question. But the notion that Prescott is having success because teams are loading up to stop the run is folly considering that the basis of the Cowboys having a strong offensive line and strong running game was to make it easier for Romo in the first place. Romo’s best and most efficient season of his career came in 2014 when the Cowboys were led by DeMarco Murray’s NFL-leading and franchise-record 1,845 yards. It’s the same formula the Cowboys hoped to put in place when they drafted rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall. It was the one that was supposed to help a healthy Romo and the Cowboys get back to their winning ways this season after last season’s 4-12 campaign. But according to Jones, a Romo-friendly offense is a positive for Romo, but a negative for Prescott. Come on, man. Where would the Cowboys be if they would have taken Paxton Lynch or Connor Cook in the draft ahead of Prescott as they tried to do or if Kellen Moore hadn’t gotten hurt or the team was able to sign Nick Foles or trade for Josh McCown as they tried to do. Prescott has saved them from themselves.
Now the decision has finally been made, suspended defensive end Randy Gregory will have 10 games added to his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He could return for the final two games of the season and possibly the playoffs if the Cowboys make it. More than likely, he will not play at all this season. Gregory missed all of camp in a rehab facility. He is working out at the team’s headquarters in Frisco, but is not allowed to practice. So he will be in no shape to play football anytime soon. But the big question is how does Gregory handle the idle time away from football with the added pressures of a new born baby in his life? He didn’t do too well with that while playing football without the baby even with the threat of a suspension hanging over his head. This will be a true test to Gregory’s maturity and the success of the drug treatment program to see he can stay clean enough to return to the team in 2017 if not for the final two games of the season.
The Cowboys say they are not worried about rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott after two fumbles in the 27-23 victory against the Washington Redskins. Elliott was not a fumbler in college. He had just one fumble for every 162.5 touches during his career at Ohio State. But the NFL is a different game and as Jason Garrett is wont to say, running the football in the NFL is hard. It is going to get much harder for Elliott as teams will now focus harder on attacking the ball. They are going to make him prove that he is not fumble prone. Elliott had 41 carries the first two weeks combined. The numbers will increase if the Cowboys have their way. But this won’t be a trial of faith. Elliott was benched for Alfred Morris following his second fumble against the Redskins. Now that this issue is out there and in the open, future fumbles will likely result in quick hooks, especially since the Cowboys have the reliable Morris as an alternative.
Hail Mary defense
There has been a lot of “wondering” and “curiosity” about the absence of wide receiver Dez Bryant on the Hail Mary defense team at the end of the games. The same thing that makes Bryant a great jump-ball target on offense would seemingly make him a great defender of jump balls at the end of the games: his athleticism and leaping ability. Per defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, the chaos at the end of games and the lack of knowledge of all the defensive rules make it hard for the Cowboys to use Bryant in those situations.
The Crawford move
It has been noted that defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford was moved to defensive end in the second half against the Redskins. Crawford was at end when he got a crucial sack against quarterback Kirk Cousins, a much-needed first sack of the season after a disappointing Week 1 performance. What shouldn’t be overlooked is that while Crawford was at left end, Jack Crawford was at right end in place of Benson Mayowa. Rookie Maliek Collins and Terrell McClain were at tackle. It was the Cowboys way of getting their best players on the field and they believed that was there best unit. That doesn’t say much for their two biggest and only free agent additions on defense _ tackle Cedric Thornton and Mayowa, who both are getting more money in real dollars this season than any other member of the line. Including signing bonus and base salary, Thornton will earn $5 million and Mayowa will get $4 million this season.